A Candle for the Devil (1973)
Directed by Eugenio Martin
Starring Judy Geeson, Aurora Bautista, Esperanza Roy, Víctor Alcázar, Lone Fleming, Helen Miller, Blanca Estrada, Loreta Tovar, Montserrat Julio
In a small town in Spain, Marta and Veronica (Bautista & Roy) are two sisters that run an inn. They are very traditional, being prim and proper, and don’t care for the younger and freer generation of women who like to show off more of their skin. They try to run a respectable establishment and wouldn’t let this kind of free spirit into their establishment, but unfortunately, bills need to be paid. When a young woman who is staying there is caught sunbathing on the roof of the inn, much to the delight of the neighboring men on the rooftops, Marta calls her a whore and tells her to leave immediately. The girl fights back, not liking being told what to do. In the confrontation, she is accidently pushed down the stairs and is killed. Marta, the older of the sisters, deems that it was an act of God, and gets Veronica to help her get rid of the body. Moments later, Judy Geeson arrives looking for her sister, who we discover was the girl who just died. Geeson is told that her sister had checked out earlier that day, not leaving any messages. Slightly confused, she stays at the inn to wait for her to come back. As she starts to look for her, we start to realize there is something going on at this inn and with the sisters who run it, especially Marta. Something much darker.
Also known as It Happened at Nightmare Inn, this film shows the very repressed old generation of Spain, kept in the conservative dark ages under the Franco rule. But in the early 70’s, this was slowly changing in country, which then in turned started to show up in their cinema. We see that both Marta and Veronica are fighting an inner battle to keep themselves the way they think women should be. That hasn’t stopped Veronica from running off in secret into the bed of a man half her age that works for them. Marta also has some deep desires but refuses to give in to them. At one point, she comes across a bunch of men skinny dipping. As she is running away, she goes through a bunch of long thorny trees, either being turned on by the scratching and tearing they are doing across her legs, arms and chest, or feeling that this pain is her punishment for such thoughts. Either way, it’s pretty demented. Much like what is going on in the rest of the film.
There is also something even worse going on at the inn that we’re not really sure of at first. Just where are these bodies going that keep piling up? Are they cutting them up and throwing them into the oven? Or are they ending up somewhere else?
Geeson had been in quite a few British horror films, along with some popular mainstream films. She’s always been a very recognizable face. She’s not really given that much to do here, other than looking for her sister. The real stars of the film are Bautista & Roy. There’s times when it seems that Roy knows what they are doing are wrong, and wants to leave. She even knows the affair that she is having is against that they believe. But when her sister needs her, she is always there helping her. Bautista is perfect in the role of the oldest sister. She has an intense, domineering look on her face that demands attention and service. She is so convince that these young women need to be taught a lesson, that she has no problem calling what she is doing a service to God.
Víctor Alcázar co-stars as a local man who became friends with Geeson’s sister before she disappeared. Alcázar is no stranger to Spanish horror films, especially ones starring Paul Naschy. He shared the screen with Naschy on four films, including two of what we consider his best films, Horror Rises from the Tomb and Hunchback of the Morgue. Lone Fleming also co-stars as one of the guests who comes under the scrutiny of the two sisters. Fleming had appeared in the first two Blind Dead films from Amando de Ossorio, but also is married to the director Eugenio Martin.
Speaking of which, director Martin gives us a grim tale of two straight laced sisters that let a bad situation get worse and worse. The previous year, Martin had given us another great Spanish horror film, Horror Express. This film had an all star cast which included British horror icons Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing as well as Spanish horror starlet Helga Liné. If you haven’t seen this film, you need to add it to your “Must-See” list as well.